Sex and – dare I say it? – Love in the 21st Century
By Rachel Sledd
In 2003, I was one of the 975,164 Americans who experienced divorce. The first in my circle of friends to marry, I managed to participate in both the creation and dissolution of matrimony while still in my 20s. Though I have no regrets, I am also no closer to a meaningful relationship, stuck in a suspiciously adolescent cycle of one infatuation after another.
Ah, love. My latest “affair,” whatever, has just ended. Via email. Soon I’m sure to spin a “what is meant to be will be” romantic web over the ending. However, this evening, writing in Mysore, India, on the other side of the world from everyone I love, I’m just disappointed. Again.
It’s too tiring, starring as the perpetual damsel in distress of a show nobody wants to see. Night after night, opening my heart only to have a knife stuck into it. “Oops, is that blade mine?” he asks, as I wipe off the blood with my white hankie and hand the weapon back to the offender with a smile. Incurably polite, I wave goodbye with one hand and cover my dripping wound with the other; only for the circus to start all over again when the next handsome disaster comes knocking on my door.
Yup, this show sucks. I quit. The money is shit, the story unbelievable, my co-stars neurotic, maddening boys masquerading as men, and the perks? Non-existent. I’d rather go for a jog, take a cold shower, adopt a baby from China. Hey, if Angelina Jolie can do it, so can we, sexy sisters, don’t you think?
Here we go: Fuck the patriarchy and the oppressive ecological nightmare it’s still riding in on. Are you with me ladies? Because I’m ready to go back to the days of Beltane, which means, gentleman: how ‘bout get me pregnant by the fire and go on your goofy way. Go hunt a buffalo, make yourself useful, but don’t give me a bunch of bullshit about commitment isn’t your thing or “you’re so pretty; it’s not you, it’s me”—I know. It’s the cocaine up your nose, the ex-girlfriend on your back, it’s your mother, your dead brother, your wish-I-could-be-bothered-but-I-really-must-be-rambling-on—ramble on… please. Just scramble your way outta here and leave me in one piece.
This is not a joke.
Yes, the moon is full and I’m all fired up. But it’s the 21st century. Something’s gotta give, or this movie is not a rental, it’s a sit on the cosmic shelf of Planets That Just Couldn’t Get Their Shit Together and God is Pissed So There’s No Come-Back Story On the Way From Heaven’s Hollywood–kind of disaster. What we girls need are not the old-school for show kind (goddess bless Cary Grant’s homo heart) of men. We need to become adults, ready to figure out how to partner each other with love and respect, and I’m sad to say I ain’t met one of your XY persuasion up to it yet.
Still, I’m an optimist.
That’s why I’m ranting, hoping you’re flipping through this magazine, feeling ready to dance a proper pas-de-deux of equals. Because it’s time to make this ballet beautifully evolutionary; time to honest up and heal the planet. Which means ourselves. Time to make this show worthy of our children. We’re waiting, boys. Anytime you’re ready.
In the meantime, I think I’ll cultivate friendship and self discovery, not romance. The challenge is embracing the happiness of my friends as they walk down the path of marriage and babies, difficult to stand outside of without feeling a bit freakish. I’m like the loser at a high school dance who shows up in bad clothes and without a date but hangs around anyway.
In India, where I’m seeking inner peace while becoming more and more in touch with inner angst, the bride’s and groom’s parents most often arrange marriage. I shudder to think who my divorced parents (Dad has moved on to wife number three) would choose as my partner, yet I have met a number of happy Indian couples who cannot imagine having met any other way. Their family life is stable, built on traditions and values that go back many generations, and the happiness and ease this can generate is truly something for a Westerner to behold. Of course, only half of American marriages end in divorce, but that is an appallingly high rate to many Indians. “Till death do us part” is the reality of their commitment to their spouse, not a quaint phrase.
So I’m sitting here in Mysore, experiencing a minor heartbreak, wondering if despite my proclamations to the contrary I’m still chasing the happily ever after. Yet, while I cheer the domestic bliss of my friends, I wait for the other shoe to drop. The first in my circle to divorce, I surely will not be the last. Which leaves me wondering, if a man ready to commit to more than a good time shows up, will I be ready? Do I want a long-term relationship and the possibility of heartache even a good one brings? After all my ranting, the truth is I don’t know.
Maybe I’ve experienced fleeting relationships since my divorce because that is all I am capable of in my cynical state. Maybe the problem isn’t just the lack of real men, my sisters, maybe it’s also our own fears and dysfunction. Yikes. I know I’m not the only gal sitting on this particular fence. What to do?
Perhaps, accept not knowing. Live with an open heart, even if it has a few cracks. Embrace friendships and family relationships while letting the future of sex and romance in my life take care of itself. Perhaps only when I am truly unafraid, the man capable to pas-de-deux me back into love will appear. Until then, a life full of friends, godchildren, good food, toilet paper, and hot water on demand is nothing to sneer at. Maybe even something to celebrate, on my way down to the Beltane fire.